Minnesota Crookston moved to 12-7 (5-0 NSIC).
MINNETONKA, Minn. – The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball team picked up a Sunday sweep over Concordia University-St. Paul with a 5-4 win in game one, and a 14-2 victory in the second game of the day. The Golden Eagles and Golden Bears were pitted against each other in an NSIC doubleheader at Veterans Field in Minnetonka, Minn.
The Golden Eagles were dominant in the pair of victories over the Golden Bears as they picked up their first doubleheader sweep of Concordia-St. Paul since April 22, 2001. Minnesota Crookston was ignited by three home runs on the day from 2018 NSIC Player of the Year Reed Hjelle (Sr., 1B, East Grand Forks, Minn.), and two home runs from Brock Reller (So., OF, Grand Forks, N.D.)
Minnesota Crookston moved to 12-7 (5-0 NSIC) with Sunday’s sweep. The Golden Eagles is off to their best start in conference play since the 2016 season. The 12-7 start for the Golden Eagles is the best for the team since opening the 2016 season with a 12-7 mark.
Minnesota Crookston earned their first win over Concordia-St. Paul since April 18, 2003. The victory is also the first for Head Coach Steve Gust over the Golden Bears. Concordia-St. Paul falls to 11-7 (3-4 NSIC). The Golden Eagles are currently tied for first place with Augustana University, the defending NCAA Division II National Champion.
Minnesota Crookston utilized another great pitching performance from reining NSIC Pitcher of the Week Zach Rustad, along with a pair of home runs by Reller and Hjelle as the Golden Eagles took down the Golden Bears 5-4.
Minnesota Crookston fended off a late charge as the Golden Bears made a late effort in the bottom of the seventh, but Dalton Grose (R-So., LHP, Waterville, Minn.) shut the door on Concordia-St. Paul for his fifth save of the season.
Rustad moved to 3-3 with the win. The left allowed two earned runs on five hits, with four strikeouts and three walks over six stanzas. Grose went one inning and gave up one run on one hit with three strikeouts.
The Golden Eagles were able to give a loss to Concordia-St. Paul ace Louie Verland, a NCBWA Preseason All-American. Varland falls to 2-2 after allowing four runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in five innings.
Travis Conoryea (R-So., OF/C, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) led the way for Minnesota Crookston by going 3-of-4 with one run scored. Ben Thoma (So., C/SS, Clearbrook, Minn.) went 1-of-3 with two runs scored. Hjelle was 1-of-4 with an RBI and a run scored, as was Reller.
Minnesota Crookston got on the board first in the second frame as Reller belted a home run over the center field fence to push the Golden Eagles into a 1-0 lead.
The Golden Eagles moved their lead to 3-0 with two runs in the fourth inning. Thoma started off the scoring as he crossed the plate on a wild pitch. Later in the frame, Conoryea came in to score on a hit by the pitch taken by Bryce Jorgenson (Jr., UT, Thunder Bay, Ontario).
Concordia-St. Paul cut the lead to 3-1 as Ryan Christopher came in to score on a Ben Suits sacrifice fly to center field.
Minnesota Crookston got the run back in the fifth frame as Hjelle rocketed a ball over the left field fence for a home run to give the Golden Eagles a 4-1 advantage.
The Golden Bears got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Patrick Bordewick tripled to left center to drive in Carter Schmidt.
In the sixth frame, Concordia-St. Paul cut the lead to 4-3 as Tom Austin singled through the left side to drive in Thoma.
The Golden Eagles combatted the rally for the Golden Bears as Conoryea singled through the left side to drive in Thoma.
Concordia-St. Paul made a late rally as Christopher singled, and Cole Kirchoff walked to open up the inning. With two on and two outs. An Austin sacrifice fly drive in Christopher to cut the deficit to 5-4. Jake Steckler grounded out for the final out of the inning.
Concordia-St. Paul looked to bounce back in game two, but the Golden Eagles had different plans as the Minnesota Crookston bats caught fire in a 14-2 victory. The Golden Eagles scored 14 runs on 13 hits lifted by two home runs by Hjelle, and another home run by Reller.
On the mound, Jayden Grover (Jr., RHP, Cooperstown, N.D.) quieted the Golden Bear bats, allowing just two runs on two hits in six innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. Grover moved to 3-2 with Sunday’s win. He has been the most dominant starter on the season for the Golden Eagles with a 3.52 ERA over 30.2 innings pitched.
Conner Richardson (Fr., RHP, Grand Forks, N.D.) continued to pitch well in relief, allowing no runs on two hits in one inning of work.
At the plate, Scott Finberg (Jr., 3B, Stillwater, Minn.) paced the squad by going 3-of-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Reller went 2-of-3 with three RBIs and three runs scored with one home run, while Hjelle was 2-of-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, with two home runs. Jorgenson ignited the team from the lead-off spot, by going 2-of-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Minnesota Crookston showcased their power early on as Reller put the ball over the center field fence for a two-run home run to drive in himself and Thoma to give the Golden Eagles an early 2-0 lead.
Concordia-St. Paul cut the deficit to 2-1 in their half of the second when Ryan Bastyr doubled down the right field line to bring in Kirchoff to score.
Minnesota Crookston got the run back in the top of third as Hjelle belted one over the left field fence to push the lead out to 4-1, scoring himself and Landyn Swenson (Jr., OF, Devils Lake, N.D.).
The Golden Bears cut the lead to 4-2 in the fourth frame as Bordewick came in to score on a Christopher ground out.
Minnesota Crookston took control of the game in the fifth frame. The first of three runs crossed in the fifth as Jorgenson scored on a Hjelle sacrifice fly. Later in the frame, Reller doubled down the right field line to plate Landyn Swenson (Jr., OF, Devils Lake, N.D.). Conoryea moved the advantage to 7-2 with a single up the middle to plate Reller.
The Golden Eagles kept their foot on the gas in the sixth inning as Jorgenson singled through the left side to drive in Bobby Chu (Jr., C, Redwood City, Calif.), and Finberg. Later in the inning, Hjelle pummeled his third home run of the day, to drive in himself and Jorgenson and push the lead to 11-2.
Minnesota Crookston moved the advantage to 13-2 in the top of the seventh when Finberg doubled down the left field line to bring in Hunter Baldwin (R-Jr., 1B/3B, St. Thomas ,N.D.), and Reller. Mason Ruhlman (Jr., 2B, Algonac, Mich.) put the final run on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly to plate Finberg.
The Golden Eagles will look for their second-straight NSIC sweep as they take on Concordia-St. Paul at 3:30 p.m. at Veterans Field in Minnetonka, Minn.